The European Union reached a provisional deal on Thursday that would allow member states to ban cultivation of genetically modified (GMO) crops within their territory, even if they've been given EU OK, but critics say the agreement fails to provide certainly the bans won't be met by legal challenges.
The deal was reached following negotiations between the EU Commission, European Parliament and European Council.
According to reporting by Les Echos, the new deal would allow countries to base their bans on environmental, agricultural or socio-economic reasons.
The EUobserver notes, however, that "the deal does not allow countries to ban GMOs altogether."
Following the agreement, EU Food Safety and Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis stated:
The agreement, if confirmed, would meet Member States' consistent calls since 2009, to have the final say on whether or not GMOs can be cultivated on their territory, in order to better take into account their national context and, above all, the views of their citizens. The text agreed is in line with [European Commission] President Juncker commitment, as reflected in his Political Guidelines, to give the democratically elected governments at least the same weight as scientific advice when it comes to important decisions concerning food and environment.
Food safety spokesperson for Greens in the European Parliament, Bart Staes, cautioned that the deal still "leaves too many gaps" and "risks being a Trojan horse" unless countries wanting a ban are guaranteed legal certainty their bans can be upheld.
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"While the deal strengthens the basis on which member states can ban GMOs after their authorization and allows them some flexibility to use environmental policy objectives as a justification, in addition to the criteria assessed by the European Food Safety Authority, it is not clear if this will provide true legal certainty," Staes said in a media statement.
"The agreement would fail to ensure there are meaningful mandatory measures to prevent the contamination of non-GM crops, with the myriad of issues this raises for growers wanting to remain GM-free," he also notes.
Greenpeace EU criticized the deal as well, echoing Staes' concern.
"Environment ministers say they want to give countries the right to ban GM crop cultivation on their territory, but the text they have agreed does not give governments a legally solid right," thus exposing them "to legal attacks by the biotech industry," Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director said in a statement.
French Green Member of European Parliament (MEP) and noted GMO opponent José Bové said that "in the short term, this change will allow multinationals like Monsanto to use legal weaknesses to challenge national bans at the World Trade Organization."
The deal now needs approval from the full Parliament and member states.
The development comes as European food safety advocates fear the looming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal could unleash American "frankenfoods," on the continent.